William and Sarah Gets Away

Britsh Merchant Vessel William and Sarah Gets Away
[5 January] 1778

The British merchant vessel William and Sarah departed from Cork, Ireland with a fine offshore wind. She was bound to the West Indies with a cargo of provisions, and was armed with sixteen 6-pounders. The wind continued good util she got to 38°10'W. At that point the William and Sarah’s men sighted an armed brig closing in on them.

The brig was at some distance away and seemed to be armed with ten guns. The British prepared for action, as they had plenty of time to get ready. When the brig got closer the British saw that she had about sixty men in her crew. The American brig hailed the William and Sarah and “bade us strike to the congress.” The British made no answer. The American brig fired a single shot, which the William and Sarah answered with a broadside, “which seemed to do some execution . . .”

The fight was now on. The brig was a low-laying vessel, which allowed the British musketry to annoy her decks, although the British had just a few muskets. The British gunners kept their cannon manned and well-served. The American privateer was firing plenty of shot, but her guns were “ill-worked.” Out of fifty shots she fired at the British only one hulled the William and Sarah. The fight continued for an hour, sometimes very closely. A shot from the British vessel now brought the American brig’s fore topmast down on the deck, which threw her into confusion.

The British “hauled off and left her, when she paid no attention to us, but seemed wholly taken up in repairing the damage we had done her.” Only one man was slightly wounded aboard the William and Sarah.1

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William and Sarah





1 NDAR, “Extract of a letter from on board the William and Sarah, bound from Cork to the West-Indies, with provisions,” XI, 943-944

Posted 24 March 2011 ©